Most corporate buffet catering columns include simple messages like “the food is not the point of the meeting” or, “don’t order anything too expensive, too cheap, or too messy.”
No offense to those advice columns, but they don’t really help much when you’re expected to flawlessly order lunch for a crowd, satisfy every dietary restriction or quirky eating habit, and do it all without going over budget.
We believe that food at work should be delicious, easy to eat, and fill employees’ stomachs without stuffing them into slumber. Here are 5 popular cuisines you can easily order that will hit all three criteria:
Mediterranean food can be light and refreshing, but still filling. This veggie-focused cuisine uses a lot of lemon juice, olive oil and parsley to flavor salads, rice and grain dishes, meats and more. Plus, the food lends itself to either buffet-style catering setups or boxed lunches, complete with wraps and side salads.
Asian food has always been a popular option for office caterers. How many films and TV shows have you seen with Chinese food boxes scattering a lawyer’s desk late at night? It’s time to think outside the white take-out box. Consider mixing it up with Japanese food.
You may not think of sushi as a universally appealing option for meals in the conference room, but this cuisine offers so much more than just nigiri or sashimi. Japanese catering companies will likely also offer rice bowls with various protein choices, noodles, soups and salads. Don’t forget to ask for extra forks! Not everyone can wield a pair of chopsticks gracefully.
OK, Southern classics like barbeque and fried chicken may not meet the criteria of easy to eat (or clean), but they are delicious! We had to sneak this one in. And, fried chicken is having a moment. According to the 2016 Trends report from hospitality consulting group Andrew Freeman & Co., traditional fried chicken and cultural fusion versions of the dish will become even more popular this year.
As more corporate buffet catering companies and chefs are experimenting with this cuisine, it’s getting easier to find items suitable for corporate lunches, including boneless chicken sliders and all the classic sides, like cornbread, hush puppies, braised greens and more.
2. Sandwiches and Salads
Cafe sandwiches and salads might be a cliché, but that’s probably because they’re a tried-and-true option for catered office lunches. These items are a versatile medium for delivering all the major food groups, and there’s almost always a good option for any dietary model: carnivore, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, raw or paleo. Sometimes there’s nothing better than pastrami on rye from your favorite local shop.
If you’re looking for a new spin on the classic, try ordering banh mi. These Vietnamese sandwiches – typically featuring a protein on a French baguette with flavorful sauce and assorted raw and pickled vegetables – might not be mainstream just yet, but you’ll be ahead of the curve once your team digs in.
1. Italian and Mexican
These two cuisines share the No. 1 title because they are both so approachable. Can you think of one person who doesn’t have a go-to Italian or Mexican spot? Nope.
Pizza, pasta and grilled chicken will always please, especially from an authentic Italian spot. It’s also possible to eat lighter with Italian food – spaghetti with meatballs instead of lasagna, or bean and vegetable soup instead of creamy Italian sausage and potato soup. Meanwhile, tacos and burritos can be easily customized to suit almost any diet, especially if the meal includes a build-your-own option. Rice bowls and taco salads can be a good option for lighter fare that won’t leave employees in a food coma.
Some of the hardest aspects of corporate buffet catering are selecting the right menu and trying to please every palate, all while avoiding messy sauces and hard-to-eat items. Fortunately, more catering companies and restaurants are diversifying their offerings, making it easier to feed the crowd.